Applications for public school pre-kindergarten will be available March 5 online and at elementary schools and Education Department enrollment offices. Families must submit applications by April 5. Applications for programs located in community based organizations are separate and are now available online or at each agency that offers pre-kindergarten.

Any child who turns four years old in 2012 may apply, but seats are not guaranteed. While admissions to public school pre-k is not as competitive -- or as expensive -- as private school --in many areas of the city, such as the Upper East Side and Park Slope, there are not enough seats to meet the demand. Programs are housed in public schools or at local daycares and pre-schools, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (six hours and 20 minutes.)

How do you find out which schools and community centers offer programs? Early in March directories will be posted online, or you can get paper copies at schools, daycare and Head Start centers and borough enrollment offices.

Workshops to help parents navigate the process are scheduled from March 12-22, led by representatives from the Office of Early Childhood Education and Student Enrollment. There is one session per borough, all running from 6-7:30 p.m.

The pre-kindergarten admissions period begins just after kindergarten applications are due, on March 2. Families may apply to up to 12 pre-k programs on one application, ranking schools by order of preference. Priority in admissions goes to families who live in the school zone and have a sibling enrolled in the school. The application can be submitted online.

In previous years there were several rounds of admissions for pre-kindergarten. According to the Education Department enrollment office there will be no summer round this year. Details to follow, as we get them.

After the first round of applications, families who do not get a seat will have another chance to apply over the summer. The downside is that you won't find out until late August or early September whether your child gets a seat. For most families that's too late to make or change plans. As SchoolBook reported earlier this month, families applying to private pre-school programs have already gotten their acceptances, and plunked down sizeable, non-refundable deposits for schools that cost upwards of $40,000 per year!

(Updated 2/29)